In the year since Brooke Jenkins was appointed to lead the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, at least 45 employees have voluntarily left, Mission Local has learned. That’s on top of the 15 employees she fired en masse on July 15, 2022.
Their stated reasons include a culture of fear, politically driven office decisions, and regressive policies that have diminished a focus on reform.
“It’s a slow thing to do, to reform the criminal justice system,” said one former longtime employee who left the office after working through multiple DA administrations. “Each person I worked for took it a little further.”
With Jenkins’ arrival, the employee said, “suddenly, that was no longer going to be happening.”
The employee, like the others quoted in this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Earlier this month, Jenkins dismissed the last case against a police officer charged with homicide in a police shooting case. All of those cases were filed under Chesa Boudin’s tenure. She also gutted the division that investigated police criminal misconduct, shortly after taking office.
Jenkins, who worked for Boudin, left in October 2021 to help with his recall, and she became the person Mayor London Breed turned to when looking for a new District Attorney.
At the helm, Jenkins promptly reorganized her staff. She fired more than a dozen employees in upper management, as well as Boudin-hired assistant district attorneys and a data analyst.
And, in the 12 months since Jenkins took office, dozens more employees have trickled out of the office, a handful leaving to other nearby district attorneys’ offices or other city departments.
While some of those who left Jenkins’ office were hired during Boudin’s more progressive administration, many were longtime employees of the DA’s office who worked there long before Boudin, and through several administrations.
Fifteen victim services employees and supervisors, several of whom were working in the office before Boudin took over in 2020, left, including the acting chief and a supervisor.
“I knew that if I ended up in a situation where there was a disagreement with management, I could be out on my ass in a moment,” said one assistant district attorney who left. “It all added up to an environment where it was very very clear that there’s no job security — and anyone can be fired at any time, for little or no reason.”
Decision-making under Jenkins was “incredibly political,” the attorney said, feeling, like other colleagues, intensely micro-managed.
“Attorneys are no longer able to review cases in a way they think is fair,” the source said. Ironically, Jenkins left the DA’s office in 2021, accusing Boudin, her predecessor and former boss, of intervening in her case.
On top of the office environment, the attorney added, the job of prosecutor is a grueling one, so high turnover is not necessarily surprising.
But issues arise in cases when frustrated lawyers quit and have to be replaced — at least, that’s what Jenkins told the Chronicle in 2021, referring to her and other resignations from Boudin’s office. She noted then that Boudin’s office had lost 59 attorneys to firings and resignations in nearly two years.
Jenkins could lose close to as many attorneys as Boudin if the current rate of resignations continues. Other staff has left as well; some 35 in the last year. In her single year in office, at least 60 total employees have been fired or resigned.
Others pointed to questionable new hires made in the past year. Jenkins’ track and field teammate from James Logan High School in Union City, Monifa Willis, was appointed as chief of the gutted Victim Services Division — and continues to report a salary of more than $100,000 from the University of California, San Francisco, where she is employed as an assistant professor.
UCSF confirmed that Willis is still employed by the university.
“It’s really the culture of bullying, retaliation, and promotions based on not merit necessarily but on favoritism,” said another longtime employee who left the office shortly after Jenkins took over, but said the DA’s office had long had a culture problem. “It’s who comes in, who you know, who’s your friend?”
An attorney who left the office this year said that reshuffling and appointments of inexperienced people into leadership roles brought work to a “screeching halt.” The attorney was excluded from work “so that everything could be reviewed,” but months went by with no movement.
It left people “in a complete void and vacuum about how to continue,” the attorney said.
The former employee, who worked under multiple different DAs, called Jenkins “disingenuous” for blaming the city’s public safety issues on Boudin, and for now skirting responsibility for unchanged conditions. “It’s so easy to throw the stones, and then you’re in the role and you see that all of this stuff happens, regardless of who’s there.”